Bicycling is an important recreational sport in the United States. Depending on location and the character of the landscape and roads, Americans of all ages enjoy casual cycling on relatively simple and inexpensive bicycles. Others become bicycle enthusiasts, spending time and money maintaining elaborate touring or racing bikes, often wearing colorful outfits to boot. Bicycles do not pollute, they provide exercise, and in some cases, basic transportation. Cycling clubs throughout the country arrange organized rides and tournaments for enthusiasts of all ages and on all types of bikes. Bicycle shops sell, service, repair, and maintain machines. Because of the dominance of the automobile for transportation, cycling is less popular in the United States than it is in most other parts of the world, although it has been growing in popularity for many years.
Bicycle tour companies operate excursions in many parts of the United States, usually travelling through rural or scenic areas. Some bicycle tourists may spend their nights in comfortable motels or inns, while others “rough it,” bringing along all their food and supplies, maintaining their machines with their own tools, and staying in campgrounds and tents. Some tours are leisurely, focused on sightseeing, while others strive to push the athletic limits of their participants, sometimes aiming for hundreds of miles in a single day.
Mountain biking employs specially designed bicycles in areas that lack roads, on trails and up and down mountains and hills. Riders need to be physically fit for this inherently dangerous sport. Equipment is often elaborate, including helmets, body armor, and specialized gloves. Mountain and off-road competitions take place throughout the country. Categories, competitive or not, include cross country, downhill, and dirt jumping.
Bicycle racing is much less popular in the United States than it is in Europe. Of course, the United States is a big country, and features cycling races, road, off-road and track, in many localities. The Amgen Tour de California, based on the famous Tour de France and taking place every May, is the largest cycling event in the country.
American communities often sponsor large cycling events that attract amateurs as well as professionals; police close off roads and highways in the process. The annual Tour de Brooklyn in New York City is a perfect example. This “family-friendly” event runs 18 miles. Many community bicycle events support charities or local organizations. In Johnsville, Ohio, for example, the Shauck Firemen’s Metric Century runs for 100 kilometers of countryside and benefits the local volunteer fire company. In Charles Town, West Virginia, animal lovers can “Pedal for Pooches” to support their local animal adoption center. Hundreds of similar events take place throughout the United States.
Unlike baseball bats, bowling balls, football helmets, and most other sporting equipment, bicycles may also provide basic transportation. For cycling as a means of transportation in the United States, see www.lifeintheusa.com/transportation/bicycles.htm.
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